Client Spotlight – Reading Partners

“I knew in my heart Reading Partners is where I wanted to be – supporting our nation’s future,” Gwen Clark is the Payroll Manager for the nonprofit Reading Partners. She has been with them for three years, and has known Payroll Systems for over 14.

“These kids are our future,” Gwen’s passion is genuine as she speaks about her journey from losing her job during the height of the recession, to having to turn down multiple job offers so she could work for the nonprofit of her choosing. Reading Partners helps kids who are six months or more behind grade level in reading. Kids, grade four and under, work with their trained tutors and more than double their rate of learning for every month they are enrolled into the program.

Originally started in Silicon Valley in 1999, Reading Partners has expanded into 10 other states thanks to the help of their AmeriCorps grant approval in 2010. AmeriCorps is a program of volunteers serving America’s communities. The volunteers get a modest monthly stipend and are on a 10-11 month rotation. And Gwen is the one in charge of everyone’s paycheck in all 11 states. When Gwen was let go of her job in 2009, she moved to Arizona and helped develop a payroll software. Gwen speaks about payroll just as passionately as she speaks of Reading Partners.

Her first job was in a small office. As the office receptionist, she wanted more responsibility, so she was taught account payables, account receivables, and eventually payroll. As Gwen put it, she fell into payroll. She loved how much more complex the process was and started creating a career for herself. After Gwen spent 18 months in Arizona, she quickly found three job offers sitting on her hypothetical desk when she moved back to California. The problem was, none of them were Reading Partners.

Gwen had successfully finished the interview process with the nonprofit, but hadn’t heard anything back. She stalled as long as she could with the other job offers, but Reading Partners was where she wanted to be. Gwen mentioned to the Reading Partners recruiter that there were other offers, and she really needed to start working; it wasn’t an ultimatum, but rather a “gentle nudge” to please make a decision. She knew there was one other candidate. “I’ve never been that pushy. In my heart I really felt this is where I needed to be.”

The offer came within two days, Gwen got the job and a position created for her: Payroll Manager. “There were 14 tax amendments I had to file due to incorrect processing,” Gwen said this understandably annoyed, but also a little surprised. Six months prior to Gwen’s new position, Reading Partners implemented a new payroll service.

This service will remain nameless, but a Google Search of “Payroll Companies” will bring up their paid ad.

According to Gwen, there were many tax compliance issues she had to clean up. A big reason for the issues were the AmeriCorps stipends. These stipends aren’t subject to state-unemployment insurance (SUI). SUI is an employer funded tax. Sometimes these AmeriCorps members would get hired in temporary positions with Reading Partners as employees. Which then makes their payroll subject to SUI. The temporary positions would end, and they would go back to AmeriCorps.

Back to earning their monthly stipend.

Back to no longer being subject to SUI.

“I sometimes had three or four entries in payroll for the same person,” Gwen needed a change. She needed a new payroll administrator. “I worked with you guys 16 years ago and the same people are there. Your customer service model -every company that truly cares about customer service should have the same model, not just lip service.”

It took a bit of convincing, but Reading Partners agreed to look into Payroll Systems.

As well as seven other payroll vendors.

“I had to sit back and let you rise to the top on your own. Other people had to decide. I knew they would think I was too pro with your company, so I didn’t want to say much.” According to Gwen, Payroll Systems came out and won the contract without a whole lot of intervention on her part, and proved to be a reliable choice. During our product demo, the AmeriCorps SUI questions came up.

Was there a way to avoid multiple entries? 14 tax amendments? Compliance issues?

Frankly, yes.

And Payroll Systems was able to find the solution during the demo.

Two years of processing issues and within one afternoon, the issues were resolved. “It spoke volumes,” Gwen said when she watched the magic of Payroll Systems unveil. Magic is a bit of an exaggeration, but Gwen talked about that moment as if it were magic. After that magic moment, Gwen Clark and Payroll Systems began working together again.

Payroll, Time & Attendance, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), and COBRA are the services Payroll Systems provides for the nonprofit and their continuously evolving staff.

Payroll Systems and Gwen Clark have a long standing relationship – one that has evolved through the downs of the recession and the ups of tech boom 2.0. Thanks to Gwen’s passion for Reading Partners and payroll, we have gotten the opportunity to work with Gwen once again along with her amazing organization.

Reading Partners is currently in 11 US cities. To learn more about their program please visit here.